co | co wildfires

Burning Tree Fire, Douglas County, CO, USA - 24 March 2011

In the meantime late Thursday afternoon after covering the Indian Gulch Fire, a new fire broke out in Douglas County. The Burning Tree Fire started on a four acre plot of land and very quickly spread to 1600 acres in a few short hours to the north of Franktown. Fueled by tinder dry grassland and 40mph winds it necessitated the evacuation of approximately 8,500 people, the majority being from the Pinery sub-division.

Douglas County jumped on this fire very quickly and utilized ten other fire districts to help. The nearby based UH-1H was again on scene first with the Crowman SH-3H and both SEATs arriving in quick succession. A cold front that passed through the area caused the gusty winds and quick changes in wind direction. While I was on scene we had gusty winds, snow, rain and sunshine followed by an eerie calm as the front passed through.

The fire was quickly brought under control due to the quick response of firefighters and by the following morning it was 100% contained. The Lead Aircraft was tasked to look at another fire in the town of Karval in Lincoln County where an eight square mile blaze was in progress that had forced the whole town to evacuate, but it was to late in the day for aircraft operations to react due to the onset of darkness.

This makes 70 reported wildfires to date this year in Colorado according to the National Interagency Fire Centre, of which three have required aerial support. This could be a devastating year as our snow and rainfall has been well below average.

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[photo/serial list]